Writing Goals: Why they often fall short

At the breaking of the New Year, people around the world set new goals and resolutions for the coming year, with the full knowledge that most fail in achieving/completing their resolutions… but we keep doing it.

Writers are no different. In fact, we may be even more goal-oriented than many due to our dependence on word counts, page counts, and the plethora of ways that we keep track of those. But are we more successful at keeping and completing our resolutions than the rest of the population?

The number of “aspiring authors” and 3-yr-old WIPs (works-in-progress) suggest that, in general, no we aren’t more successful at keeping them. The real question is why?

Actually, there are two important questions, ‘Why?’ and ‘What can I do differently?’

Most books never get finished. That is a fact. Struggling writers tend to spend a great deal of time questioning their talent, their story, that “one sentence” that just isn’t right. Productive writers spend that time actually writing. There is no secret formula. They write and keep writing.

Most people set poorly designed resolutions, that is why they fail. They are too general, and untrackable. New Year’s resolutions tend to be vague, “This year I am going to finish my novel…”. Sure, a productive writer might have an overarching goal, “I am going to write three novels this year.” But then they take the next step and give it specificity… ‘In order to do that I will schedule the time to write at least 2250 words each day and track the word counts on the whiteboard…’

The difference is that they are “scheduling time”, which is critical in the busy lives we live today. They also pledge to write “at least” 2250 words/day. That’s a specific minimum number of words, your target. Many days you will write significantly more, other days it will be like pulling teeth. But perhaps the most important is the accountability by tracking it on a whiteboard, on the wall. Not some hidden spreadsheet, but looming over your endeavor. I promise you will not always feel inspired, this is normal. However, the more you do it and hit your numbers and watch the trend develop on the board two things will happen: a) You will naturally be inspired because you have trained your mind to write daily and in a regimented way and b.) when you don’t make it to your daily goal, it will piss you off. It’s glaring at you, reminding you to sit your butt down and write.

I encourage you all to be aggressive with your goals but break them up into manageable daily bites which are doable.

I wrote three books in 2019, two novels and a non-fiction book. This year, to push myself, I have joined a small group doing ‘The Million Word Challenge” which is an impossible goal, but I have set a daily word target of 2,750. That is not always easy, but it is certainly manageable and doable. I honestly don’t know if I will make it, a million words is a BIG goal. But I know that if I aim for it and hold myself accountable, it is certain to be a highly productive year.

Aim high, but create a plan to get there. Good Luck and have a banner year!

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